The Raven

The Raven

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Union Busting

I read an article in my most recent UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers) union magazine that I really liked:


"The phrase 'union busting' describes the many ways in which employers, often with outside assistance, try to prevent their employees from seeking union representation at the workplace.
In the past, companies deployed Pinkerton agents, street thugs and even National Guard troops to beat, shoot and intimidate striking employees and union organizers. These days, employers are more discreet as they go about violating their workers' human rights.
Through the years, they have become expert at exploiting weaknesses in federal and state laws that were initially written to protect the rights of the workers to organize themselves and bargain collectively for their wages, benefits and working conditions.
Upon hearing the faintest whisper of pro-union sentiment, companies routinely hire highly-paid "consultants" to advise them of "union avoidance" strategies. Employers also deploy lobbyists and make campaign donations in order to enact laws that make the environment even more difficult for union organizers.
Workers can experience union-busting tactics in many ways. They mights overhear someone spreading anti-union lies in the break room. They might be forced to attend high-pressure "meetings" in which those same lies are expressed in a more forceful and direct manner. All too frequently, they will see their pro-union coworkers harassed, transferred to graveyard shifts and even fired. Recently, we've observed how state governments can engage in blatant union busting as they strip teachers and other public-sector workers of their collective bargaining rights.
In fact, we are in a new golden age for union-busters. A factory on Danville, Va., that makes furniture for Ikea provides a case in point.
When the Swedish retail giant came to Danville to build its first production facility in the United States, workers in the region were hopeful that Ikea, which has a worldwide reputation for progressive ideas, would become a model employer.
Unfortunately, that didn't happen. The 335 employees at the non-union plant complain of erratic scheduling, compulsory overtime work and canceled promises of wage improvement. They are paid wages that are far lower than those earned by Ikea's unionized workers in Sweden, where minimum wage is close to $19 an hour.
The workers reacted to these abuses by seeking union representation. Ikea's U.S. subsidiary responded by hiring a notorious anti-union law firm and forcing the workers to attend anti-union propaganda sessions.
This is just one example of the realities that America workers experience every day.
They aren't carrying clubs and shotguns, but the union-busters are out in force. Confronting them will require all of the dedication and courage we can muster. We've worked too hard to get what we have to let them take it away from us."

-written by Anthony Benigno, UFCW Secretary-Treasurer

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